15/08/2012 - 10:37

If small business was easy we’d all run one

15/08/2012 - 10:37


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With so much information to assist business owners in sales, marketing, finance, management and strategy, why aren't we all great at doing these things?

WITH so much information to assist business owners in sales, marketing, finance, management and strategy, why aren’t we all great at doing these things? 

How is it that our businesses are all not operating at their peak or, at least, a lot better than they are? Why is the implementation of all these great principles and concepts so hard?

We can sign up to newsletters from marketing gurus, from specialists in recruitment, from experts in management, from professionals with fantastic tools for the development of a business strategy. The web is a library of high-level information – granted, we need the time to sort out the wheat from the chaff and to determine what is most relevant for our situation. Every week, there seems to be an offering of some expert in one field or another delivering a not-to-be-missed seminar or forum. There is a plethora of books DVDs and You-Tube videos available to us.

So, where’s the problem? Why don’t we simply take the time, discover the areas where we need assistance, obtain that information from one or more of these sources, and implement?

In my experience, there are a number of factors at work. However, I also firmly believe that, once the relevant roadblock is appreciated and fully comprehended (and there is a commitment to overcoming it), a pathway to developing a plan can be implemented and the obstacles overcome.

Getting off on the wrong foot

Well, not so much a wrong foot as a lack of preparation. People who start businesses often are good at – or have a great interest or passion for – the basis of their business enterprise. Passion is a great starting point, but it must be accompanied by knowledge of all the elements that are necessary for business success. You might have an absolute passion for health foods and know the industry backwards, but unless you know your target market, how to prepare for and understand the finances or how to deal with suppliers, that passion can soon fade to an unenjoyable chore.

Improper allocation of time

Some people might call this time management, but even well-organised people are not immune to poor prioritisation of time. While the passion is (understandably) at the forefront, there will always be the temptation to spend a majority of time on the area of greatest interest. However, all of the other elements of business also require attention. Taking the time to work on the business – planning, developing strategies and the implementation of processes – is very often overlooked as something to be done when there’s time, as though it’s of lesser importance than the business operations. (It is not.)

Lack of self-awareness

How can a business owner make the right choices if he or she is unaware of the characteristics that are holding them back? One of the resources available in today’s market is a book by Liz Wiseman called Mulipliers, in which she suggests that ‘multipliers’ get far more out of their people than ‘diminishers’, who actually reduce the capacity of people to be at their best – to the detriment of their business. The question, however, remains: How can ‘diminshers’ improve or change their modus operandi if they are not aware of the impact of their negative characteristic? (In fairness to Wiseman, she did not set out to conduct a course in self-awareness, but rather to guide people who can be made aware in how to get more from those around them and perhaps to progress from the ‘accidental diminisher’ to becoming a ‘multiplier’.)


It stands to reason that it is highly unlikely, as a business starts to grow, that its founder(s) will have expertise in all of the areas necessary to run a growing concern. To fully understand and be competent in the areas of sales, marketing, finance and management is an unrealistic expectation. It is vital, therefore, that they realise where those gaps will be and work within a plan to address them as they become obvious.

While you can’t turn back the clock to address the getting off on the wrong foot factor, you can look at where there may have been deficiencies at the time and ensure they’ve since been addressed.

You can look at time allocation to ensure all of the necessary business elements are being given the required attention.

However, the major ongoing obstacle to success is accountability; or, more accurately, a lack thereof.

The business owner will understand that a change (or changes) need to be made, makes a (so-called) commitment to him – or her – self, but does not follow through.

Ensuring there is a person to whom you hold yourself accountable could be the smartest business move you make. That person could well be a coach, a mentor or a strategic ally whom you can trust to tell you as it is. 

• They would first work with you in determining your goals and your vision for your business.

• Then conduct a reality check regarding what is happening today.

• Determine the obstacles that are preventing you from achieving those gaols.

• Assist in developing a plan to overcome obstacles and move forward.

• Hold you accountable for your keeping on track every step of the way.

We want our people to be accountable for achieving the results we expect of them, but how often do we neglect that same sort of accountability for ourselves?

Provided that we are truly committed to success, we can access information available, allocate sufficient time to working on business development, become aware of our strengths (concentrating on them and addressing weaknesses through other people), engage the necessary expertise, either internally or by outsourcing it, and then finding the right person to hold us accountable. A disciplined approach and a commitment to accountability are the underlying foundations on which positive change and growth can occur.


John Matthew is principal of Switch, Directions for Business, a Perth-based management consultancy.

Contact John on 9531 3777 | johnm@switchdirections.com.au



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